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After helping Aécio Neves and Michel Temer avoid conviction, Judge Sergio Moro uses shaky evidence to prevent Ex-president Lula’s candidacy on the day that the Brazilian Senate wipes 70 years of labor rights gains off the board.
On Wednesday, July 12, Judge Sergio Moro sentenced ex-president Lula to serve 9.5 years in jail for passive corruption and money laundering. The judgment is 238 pages long but only 24 of them deal with material proof. The majority of Moro’s argument is based on inadmissible plea bargains (134 pages) other testimony and conservative newspaper articles. Throughout the entire document, from beginning to end, the judge repeatedly affirms that he is impartial and his judgment is based on “facts” and “laws”, but it is logically inconsistent. The judgment appears to have been timed to be released at the precise moment when the Senate passed a bill annulling most of Brazilians’ labor rights — a major setback for the Brazilian working class — effectively pushing that story out of the news headlines.
News coverage of the Lula conviction by The Real News, posted on YouTube. This was not part of the Brasilwire article, but provides additional detail and reaches similar conclusions.
None of the material proof provided is conclusive or even minimally indicates any type of crime. In 2004 or 2005 Marisa Letícia (Lula’s wife) bought interest in an apartment that was still under construction. This was perfectly legal. Judge Moro built a case arguing that the apartment that Lula allegedly received is larger (215 sq.m.) and more expensive than the money he had paid. The problem with his case, which Moro himself acknowledges, is that the apartment was never used, purchased or even registered in Lula’s name. So the prosecution spent a tremendous amount of time and discursive energy trying prove the apartment belongs to Lula. Almost all the evidence lacks substance. Furthermore, under Brazilian law, plea bargains – made by people threatened with huge prison sentences–– cannot be accepted as proof.
Within the body of the judgment, Moro criminalizes Lula’s appointments of Petrobras directors implying that these were made to maintain or even enhance corruption in the giant Brazilian oil company. Moro accuses Lula of authorising some directors to receive illegal benefits. The problem with his argument is that the only evidence is contained in a former director’s plea bargain – inadmissible in a court of law. According to Moro, Lula received around US$950 thousand in this operation. This is not a credible figure for the “Supreme Chief” of a corruption scheme in which some directors allegedly received over US$ 98 million dollars in bribes.
The evidence is thin and the demonstrated causal relations are even thinner. In terms of physical evidence, Moro presented blank, unsigned contracts and a few vague, taped cellphone conversations about alterations to the apartment. The taped conversations were made from OAS construction company CEO Leo Pinheiro’s phone calls with his employees. None of the taped conversation mention Lula or his wife. Moreover, the unsigned contract Moro presented refers to a different apartment. The apartment which Ms. Marisa Letícia tried to purchase, according to judge Moro, is number 141, and the one that he says they owned is number 164, which is larger and more expensive. But no commercial transaction was ever made.
Lula’s defence lawyer says that Moro only addresses the arguments for the defense in five brief moments within his 238-paged judgment. Cristiano Zanin, the head of Lula’s legal defence team denounced Moro for using ‘law-fare’ to unfairly target Lula. He presented his accusations in international forums and believes that the sentence itself is a very good indictment of Judge Moro.
Lula has the right to appeal, and there is a still long way to go in the Brazilian judicial system before this sentence would come into effect. Some distinguished lawyers and professors have said that the final decision could take a year and a half. The timing is crucial because the next presidential elections are scheduled for October 2018. Under Brazilian electoral law, if the final decision about Lula’s case does not come before April 2018, Lula, currently leading all polls, would be barred from running for president. Judge Moro, who is constantly photographed with opposition politicians like Aécio Neves (who was recently reinstated in the Senate despite being caught on audio and video soliciting millions of dollars in bribes and threatening to kill a witness), also tried to ban Lula from running for office for 18 years. In his judgment, Moro states that he could ask for Lula’s immediate imprisonment but that he won’t do this to avoid “social and political trauma”. In the last paragraph, Judge Moro said he is not “personally happy” to sentence an ex-president to jail, but you get the feeling that he was smiling while he wrote that.
This article was first published on Brasilwire. It has been slightly edited by LAB.